Sunday, 14 October 2012

Whatever happened to our ‘bowels of mercy’!

Whatever happened to our ‘bowels of mercy’!

 “But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? 1 John 3:17 KJV.

“Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering”  Col 3:12 KJV.

Greater part of the year, 2012 has seen a lot of Christians being attacked, killed, dispossessed and displaced especially in the Northern Nigeria. The persecutions have not abated as on the 1st October, about 30 Christian students were murdered at Federal Polytechnic, Mubi as reported here.

A close look at the reports from the Anglican Diocese of Jos website shows the mayhem that has been meted on Christians by irate Muslims who want to Islamize them by all means. What disturbs my heart is not just that our brethren are being killed and displaced, but I do not seem to see a mobilization and concerted efforts from the ‘free’ churches to reach out to these Christians who are passing through difficult times. It seems as if Christian leaders behave like every other political leader who will just come out after every incident and condemn the ‘murderous attack’ and then ‘to your tents O, Israel’, we all go back to business as usual. We criticize efforts that are solely denominational both in nature and commitment, that is, efforts that concentrate only within the denominational boundaries, but even that is rare these days. Our self-centeredness is very obvious and manifest in our indifference and inaction.

Currently, floods are ravaging several parts of the country. Homes and properties are destroyed; people are missing and being displaced; churches and mission fields are closed down. What are the ‘free’ churches doing? What has happened to our bowels of mercies? “How dwelleth the love of God in (us)”?

I was in a church today and the best that was done was to pray for those who were affected by the floods to take heart and be consoled by God. Meanwhile an emphasis was made on people paying endowment fund which nobody has been able to explain what the purpose is. What is the endowment fund for? Is it going to be used for investment? Will they draw money from it to build hospitals or for evangelism and missions? Is it to be used to build something befitting for the General Overseer or fund accumulated for him to have easy access for his travels and so on? The questions can go on and on. However, no matter how noble the idea may be, the issue is that the church is insensitive to the plight of those suffering the effects of the current disaster – floods. Some members around where I was seated murmured asking why they were talking about endowment fund while nothing was being done about those whose lives have been changed forever. Some are sleeping in open classrooms while others are under trees.

For most of the victims, life will never remain the same for good. It reminded me of a brother whose life was changed forever when one of the markets in the city of Port Harcourt got burnt down about ten years ago. His church where he was very committed in service could not help him to stand back on his feet because the pastor was afraid not to set‘precedence’.

I believe that social work can be used as a means of evangelism. I believe that social concerns can be used by the church to show the world the heart of a loving God. I believe that social concerns can open up door ways for the salvation of souls. If these things are true, why is the church not taking this opportunity? There are many things churches can do:

1.      Set up a committee who will work out modalities on how your church can be involved
2.      Collect offerings like was done in 1 Cor.16:1-4; Acts 11:29-30 and send to the affected churches.
3.      Concerned families can come together and contribute clothes, medicines and food stuffs and send to the affected areas.
4.      Churches can send artisans to help in reconstructing some destroyed houses.
5.      You can persuade your organizations to do something as part of cooperate social responsibility.

There are so many things we can do if we have God’s kind of heart. When we see the sufferings of our fellow men and look the other way like the Priest and Levite in Luke 10, or remain indifferent as most of us are doing today, one can really ask, “What happened to our bowels of mercies?”

In case you are having problems who to contact, call 08033160938 (Bishop Angar Nyanabo whose whole Diocese is submerged and he is squatting somewhere in Yanagoa) or 08036705262 (Rev. Can. Somiari whose missionary churches are affected in Bayelsa) or any other church leader you may know. Just do something! God bless you!

Believed but too late!

Believed but too late!
"He answered, 'Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father's house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.' "Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.' "'No, father Abraham,' he said, 'but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.' "He said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'" Luke 16:27-31 NIV

That was a discussion between the rich man that dressed in purple and lived in luxury while he was alive and father Abraham. The man was speaking from hell while Abraham was answering him from the abode of the saints. You can read the whole story from Luke 16: 19-end.

Most likely, when the man was on earth, he had no time for spiritual things. He did not have time for God. He just carried on in life as if he would live forever here on earth. But life on earth is not permanent. We are all passers-by, strangers and sojourners who start the journey towards our death the first day we are born.

There are two major events in our lives that draw people around us, if we are privileged, without our awareness – our birth and our death. As many of us as are reading this piece right now are waiting for the next big event that will gather people around us, our death which we have no control over. For our entrance, our birth, we had no preparation for it but for our exit, our death, we have to prepare for it. When a man gets so distracted by the fashions of this world that he forgets that he is a pilgrim here and begins to live like a land owner, he is the most deceived and the most to be pitied. That was the kind of life the rich man in our passage lived.

One truth is clear from this story of Jesus: the soul of man does not die when the body dies. We continue to live even after we are buried here on earth. Whether we are rich or poor does not affect the fact that we will all be conscious after death. Notice that Lazarus’s burial or funeral was not mentioned but the rich man was buried. That is why it does not matter the “chariot of your departure”. It does not matter the way we die or whether a superb funeral is organized after we are gone. It does not matter how many priests and pastors that attend our burial. Notice also that the rich man was still full of his feelings. He was hurting, thirsty and tormented in the flames of hell. Death is not total extermination of our conscious being.

A few questions keep coming to my mind, how is it that someone who is a child of Abraham can go to hell? How is it that even in hell, he was still calling Abraham, “father Abraham” and neither Abraham nor God could rebuke him for doing so? It means that he was not lying. But why is it that he is spending his eternity in hell, lost forever? He wasted his opportunities and the privileges he had. He lived as a child of Abraham by birth and association but did not serve the God of Abraham. Hence even by his addressing Abraham as ‘father’ did not bring him out of hell. For generations to come, he will remain in hell forever in regret for missing the salvation of God.

This picture tells me that there are many in hell today who will be calling on God to save them. There are many in hell today who will be receiving Jesus as their Lord and Savior numerous times. It tells me that there are many people in hell today who are crying and praying prayer of repentance. The issue is that nobody will stop them from praying but surely no such prayers will be answered.

It’s amazing to see this man that could not give Lazarus little crumbs from his sumptuous table asking for a drop of water. He remembered all the messages preached to him by teachers of the Law and suddenly developed a heart of compassion for his equally lost brothers. He became an intercessor immediately and was asking that a preacher be sent from the dead to warn his brothers. "Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.' … 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'" Luke 16:29-31 NIV. It means that if they do not listen to the Gospel that is preached all around them, they will not listen even if something spectacular happens, like the dead coming back to life to preach.

One life to live! We have the opportunity to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and serve Him. The time to make decision for eternity is in this life and not hereafter. There is no purgatory or a go-between life and your eternal destination. It is possible that there are some in hell right now who are praying for you not to come there, probably thinking that if you go to heaven, you will help out. Many will believe in Jesus only when they have entered hell but they will have believed too late. Please as we come close to the end of this Year, make sure you take the right decision. Do not join the statistics. Do not waste your opportunities and privileges. God bless!